Sleuthfest: Drawing First Blood

Barbara Vey -- February 27th, 2010

James and Les

Friday morning and Sleuthfest is in full swing.  My first stop is the workshop called “Lost in La La Land” just because I couldn’t resist the title.  Billed as “Two seasoned novelists share their Hollywood adventures,” James W. Hall and Les Standiford take us on a journey to the mystical land of movies and television.  Les shared, “By learning how to write screenplays, I learned how to write about saleable novels.”  James, commenting on the very short attention span of the locals, advised, “If you want to get your work sold in Hollywood, have a good agent.”  Very entertaining and energizing start to the day.

Agents Next up I couldn’t resist the Agent’s Round Table that offered, “What’s Hot, What’s Not.”  Agents extraordinaire Donna Bagdasarian, Michelle Brower, Pauls S. Levine, Barbara Poelle and Paige Wheeler played off each other like the seasoned pros they are.  Some of their sage advice:  Paige – “Don’t follow trends.  Write what you know.”  Paul – “Avoid vampires. What’s the hook?  What distinguishes this book from what’s out there?”  Barbara – “Craft…technique…detail.”  Michelle – “Zombies are great.”  Donna – “To find out trends…lunch with editors.”  They conceded that it takes a minimum of a year and a half for a book to get published, so things can always change.  Trends are cyclical.  Donna’s motto:  “Never say never.”  I say this group offered everything you ever wanted to know about agents and the SRO audience agreed.

CJ Lyons My last stop before lunch was titled Trauma 101 taught by ER pediatric doctor CJ Lyons.  Described as “Write it real when your character has been beaten, stabbed or shot.”  CJ knows her stuff and while the attending group was fascinated by the slide show of real life dead arms with heroin needles still stuck in them, my wimpy, queasy stomach could only manage to snap a quick picture of CJ while I can only assume her rapt audience were imagining how to kill off their characters.  I beat a quick exit.

The luncheon featured keynote speaker David Morrell  of Rambo fame.  In addition, he’s written 28 books and is the co-president of the International Thriller Writers organization (another terrific conference I’ll be attending in July in NY).  He takes his craft so seriously that he recently received his pilot’s license so he could more accurately describe the scene.

I had the honor of partying with the hardest working group around…the volunteers.  These tireless people give their all so the guests can experience all the conference can offer with seeming effortlessness.


The hotel restaurant was packed for dinner, but poor planning had only one bartender and two servers.  This is the Hilton.  What on earth were they thinking?  The good news is that this conference group can entertain themselves on a dime and the biggest table around belonged to the self proclaimed “romance writers.”  I told them they were the hottest group around and after the cheering subsided, I managed to get a picture to share with you.

hot table

Even though we waited for 3 1/2 hours for our food (and the order Margaretwas wrong), we ate it anyway because we were starved.  One of the highlights was the delightful Margaret, who really works in the banquet area, but was kind enough to help out.  With her infectious smile and great demeanor, she managed to defuse some potentially explosive situations.  Here’s a pic of us, but obviously our photographer had one too many Shirley Temple’s and cut off half of Margaret’s head (sorry Margaret).


Because of the very late dinner, I missed the screening of First Blood and the complimentary movie snacks, but I’ve seen the movie before and who could ever forget the Sylvester Stallone image of John Rambo?  (Although I always had the hots for Richard Crenna.)

Bottom Line:  I hope tomorrow night they show a Rockford Files episode when it’s Stephen Cannell’s turn to shine.

5 thoughts on “Sleuthfest: Drawing First Blood

  1. Deborah Sharp

    Jeeez, a 3 and a half hour wait for dinner??? Y’all should have called Domino’s to deliver at that point! Fortunately, the banquet service is usually great at the hotel; enjoyed my key lime pie (and meeting you) at S-Fest’s Friday’s lunch.

  2. Blurbette Heidi

    I can’t believe the patience of the attendees for 3 1/2 hours for dinner. Would have been really funny if you called in Jimmy John’s, then everyone put on a cheezy smile, like the commercials! Congratulations to all on another fantastic day of Sleuthfest! Thanks Barbara for letting us live for the fun through you!

  3. PJ Parrish

    Thanks for the nice write-up! I don’t know what it is with the Hilton. We’ve been holding the conference here for years and the service is always spotty. Unfortunately, it is hard to find a good hotel with enuf breakout space for four tracks of panels, big enuf ballroom for 300+ luncheons, at room prices attendees can afford. It’s an ongoing problem for SleuthFest.


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